Mourners pay respects to Tanzania’s late President John Magufuli

Mourners in Tanzania have lined the streets of the country’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, to pay their respects to President John Magufuli, days after the government announced his death after nearly three weeks missing from public view.

People on Saturday wept and threw flower petals as the coffin, towed on a gun carriage by a military vehicle and draped in the Tanzanian flag, was transferred from a church to Uhuru Stadium where religious leaders recited prayers at a service attended by top officials and supporters of Magufuli.

“Before I saw the coffin, I didn’t believe our president was really dead,” said flower-seller Pauline Attony after watching the motorcade pass.

Among the mourners was Magufuli’s successor as president, the country’s former Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Hassan, who was sworn in on Friday to become the country’s first female president, led a government procession filing past the coffin, offering her condolences to Magufuli’s wife.

“It is too soon for you to go, father. You touched our lives and we still needed you,” said one mourner, Beatrice Edward. “We lost our defender,” said another, Suleiman Mbonde, a tradesman.

Coronavirus sceptic

Hassan announced on Wednesday that Magufuli, 61, had died from a heart condition. His unexplained absence – the government had denied he was ill, and several people were arrested for spreading rumours about his health – fuelled speculation that he was being treated for coronavirus abroad.

Tundu Lissu, Tanzania’s main opposition leader, who lives in exile in Belgium, insists his sources said Magufuli had died a week earlier from the disease that he had long downplayed.

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